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After delivering his budget proposal, Gov. Snyder now has to figure out how to sell it

This week’s It’s Just Politics is all about the dineros, somolians, greenbacks, dead presidents. In other words, it’s the budget-rollout edition… so, we’re talking moolah.

Governor Snyder delivered his budget proposal for the next fiscal year this week and the headline seems to be: Tough calls have been made; good times are head, but we’ve got to pay for it.


In his third budget proposal since taking office, Governor Snyder proposed more money for roads, harbors, schools, colleges and universities. And, more funds for early childhood education and law enforcement. This budget is all about investment: spend now to save later.

And, it’s interesting to take a look back and see what a difference a couple years can make. When Governor Snyder first took office he talked about how surprising it was to see folks in Lansing constantly asking for money for their departments, projects and programs; now the Governor is the one asking for some bread, coinage, clams. He might be asking nicely for more money but he’s going to also have to do some convincing. He’s got to sell his spending plan to fellow Republicans, the party that’s typically averse to so-called “revenue enhancements.”

There was also his embrace this week of the Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. Four hundred thousand more people could be enrolled here in Michigan. That’s part of his budget, too, even though at the outset it’s paid for entirely by the federal government. It is already anathema to Republicans who are resolved to just refuse to cooperate with Obamacare in any way, shape or form. Those same Republicans are the ones who blocked a state-run health insurance exchange last year.

Meanwhile, Democrats who still feel burned after last year’s lame duck session aren’t exactly lining up to give the governor cover on tough votes. One has to wonder how he’s going to sell his budget… which means one has to wonder: Is it deal-making time in the Snyder administration?

Republican leaders are already going to their members and saying, ‘hey, everyone agrees the roads need to be fixed. That’s not being debated. If you’re not on board with a higher gas tax, like Governor Snyder wants, what’s your solution?’  Put ‘em on the spot.

There’s also a peace-keeping aspect to this. It’s interesting to note that on the same day the governor rolled out his spending plan, Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to lay to rest an abortion controversy. Bolger announced there will be no vote on a controversial pre-abortion procedure – a trans-vaginal ultra-sound.  So, that’s not happening; we will not see that controversy repeated.

And speaking of courting controversy, some conservative Republicans in the Legislature now want to follow up on their right-to-work victory of last year by repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law. That law says contractors bidding on state government work have to promise to pay typical union wages whether they’re organized by a union or not. But trying to repeal that would provoke a brand-new war with labor. Governor Snyder tried to put the kibosh on that talk when he was asked about it this week, “Very divisive issue. So, [I] would say it’s… not something I’m interested in working on.” The Governor paused as he was answering the question… almost as if he was grasping to not use that now infamous phrase, “not on my agenda.” When the Governor was asked about prevailing wage back in 2011, he answered it this way: “Prevailing wage is an issue that’s not been on my agenda.”

“Not on my agenda” appears to no longer be in One Tough Nerd’s lexicon. Not any more, at least. Not as he’s looking for help wherever he can get it in order to pass his budget. And, that might mean turning to Democrats. But, they’re likely going to want more from the Governor if they’re going to help him; some type of solid assurance that this question of repealing prevailing wage will truly be set aside. Democrats are hearing new words saying the same things they’ve heard before.

The lyrics seem to have changed but the tune is the same.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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